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Officials want own conservation program

October 22, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown officials would prefer to exempt the city from the state's Forest Conservation Act or start their own program to gain more control over how it is implemented.

None of the approximately $100,000 that city businesses have paid into the state fund since 1991 has resulted in trees being planted in the city, said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator.

Under the state program, developers either must plant trees or pay to have them planted to compensate for land they've cleared.

The trees have been planted in the Antietam National Battlefield area, officials said.

If the city had its own fund, the council could use the money to plant trees along city streets, thanks to a change in the state law about three years ago, Planning Director Ric Kautz said.

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The $20,000 remaining in the state fund from city businesses could be transferred to a new city fund, Everhart said.

It would take from four to six months for the city to start its own fund, she said.

City officials, wishing to try to exempt the city from the law, discussed their options with the Washington County Commissioners during a joint meeting in the County Administration Building on Tuesday.

Past attempts to have all of Washington County exempted have failed.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey and Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said they think the best way to ask the Maryland General Assembly for an exemption is to take advantage of Gov. Parris Glendening's Smart Growth program.

To encourage development in urban areas - the point of Smart Growth - the state has to get rid of some restrictions against business, such as the reforestation law, Boyer said.

The law hinders businesses such as C.M. Offray & Son Inc., also known as Maryland Ribbon Co., Councilman William M. Breichner said. The firm owns land that it cannot expand onto because it has to set it aside for tree plantings, he said.

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